Cuenca’s rivers are flowing at seasonal levels following a prolonged drought that reduced them to a trickle in November and December. More important says meteorologists, the city has escaped the deadly floods suffered in other areas of the sierra and on the coast.
“We have received above-normal seasonal rainfall but it has been evenly distributed over the last month,” says Milton Suarez of the country’s weather service. “There have been deadly floods north of Cuenca, in Riobamba and Quito, and even worse flooding on the coast. We are lucky that we have escaped that.”
The worst of the flooding within the past week has been in Manabí and Guayas Provinces, where 10 deaths have been blamed on floods. According to Suarez, the heavy rains are the result of above-average ocean water temperatures just off-shore. “The coast is hot, both the water and temperatures on-shore, and this leads to intense thunderstorms,” he says. “This creates a condition that we call La Niña Modoki, a Japanese term meaning ‘similar origins and different effects,’ meaning that it’s like La Niña in some respects but does not entirely fit the definition.”
The major concern for Cuencanos, Suarez says, are landslides on surrounding highways. The highway between Cuenca and Guayaquil has been closed intermittently in the past two weeks, he says, due to heavy rains in the high elevations of the Cajas Mountains. Highways in Cañar Province, north of the city, have also seen frequent closures.
As of Monday morning, the highway to Guayaquil was open to traffic following closures on Saturday.
“We see the current weather pattern continuing in the coming week and advise motorists to check road conditions before they travel,” he said.